Our Story

Art Creates Community. Community Creates Change.

In 1996, a group of New York City artists, educators, and activists founded Groundswell with the belief that collaborative art-making combines the sanctity of personal expression with the strength of community activism -- and produces unique and powerful outcomes.


Twenty years later, nearly 500 murals have been completed by Groundswell, working with groups of youth and professional artists, in collaboration with more than 300 community-based organizations, neighborhood groups, and government agencies throughout New York City. These compelling artworks demonstrate our enduring belief that art creates community and community creates change.



Groundswell brings together artists, youth, and community organizations through our Scaffold Up! model to use art as a tool for social change, for a more just and equitable world. Our projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue.



Our vision of youth development is to engage youth in public art-making to gain the inspiration, tools, and agency to take ownership of their futures.


Our vision of community change is to encourage dialogue and activism, in participation with organizations that share our values and aspirations.


Our vision of public art is to link personal expression to community activism, resulting in high quality work that conveys compelling messages about the concerns of our participants and partners.


Our vision of positive social change is a more just and equitable world.




Most Groundswell youth attend New York City public schools and come from low-income or working-class families. Annually, up to 1,000 young people, primarily aged 14 to 21, participate. Our participants are motivated to join our programs by public art’s connection to graffiti and street culture, to make new friends, express themselves, develop art skills, and work collaboratively.

Community-Based Organizations

Groundswell is New York City’s premier organization dedicated to advancing the practice of public artmaking. Community-based organizations, schools, and city agencies contact us to learn how public art can raise awareness of their organization, advance their mission, build community, and visually transform public space. We have collaborated with more than 300 organizations since our founding.


Local, established artists lead every Groundswell project. All have bachelors and/or masters degrees in fine arts and experience working with youth. Groundswell's artists are committed to the practice of collaborative community art and to using art to advance social change.